Sy's request

“Don’ think I ain’ ever gettin’ used to this,” Sy sighed. Her arms were tensed, her face glistened with sweat, and her breathing was hoarse. She strained to push the ground away from her just one more time.

Lucia retorted, not unkindly: “Come come now, Sy. It’s only been a week.”

It was 6:25 in the morning, 8 days since Lucia and Sy had become neighbors, and at Lucia’s insistence, both women had spent an hour of every morning in Lucia’s room, training. Last of today’s routines were push-ups, with Lucia using only one hand at a time. She didn’t seem too tired at all, which was true. She had in fact been taking it a little easier during her training with Sy as to not discourage her, making up for it with an extra bouldering session in the evening.

Sy collapsed on the yoga mat and coughed. “Seriously though. You been doin’ this fo’over 20 years?"

"Just shy of, actually," Lucia corrected patiently. "At first it's difficult. After 3 months it gets easier. After a year it's second nature. You will see. Already you improve quickly. If not for the training, you would still be getting around on the glider, and I shudder to think the damage to the lab that could have wrought." She elegantly got to her feet and extended a hand to Sy, who took it. Lucia pulled her to her feet as easily as picking up a table cloth.
“Shower, then ready for work,” she said.

“Don’ forget I got the afternoon off,” Sy said as she pulled off her shirt. “Spire visit. Pyria wants an update, an’ I wanna see her an’ Pipe an’ Romeo again. I freakin’ miss them, y’know? Not that you’re not great, ‘s jus’ diff’rent, y’know?”

“I know,” Lucia said with an amused smile. “I’m not offended.”

“Takes mo’ than li’l ol’ me to get you riled up, obvis,” Sy said slyly and chuckled. She pulled down her pants and underpants, stepped out of them with one foot, and used to other foot to lift the clothes into her own hand, dunking the lot in a very efficient-looking basket outside the bathroom door. “Don’ seem like anythin’ fazes ya.”

She stopped in front of the bathroom door, hesitating. Lucia, who’d been about to go into the kitchen, picked up on it immediately, halted and turned. “Yes?”

Sy turned to her, stark naked both physically and mentally. She felt almost like a child again, asking daddy if she could go play with the other kids. She barely even noticed she lapsed out of her slum jive much like she did around Pyria. “Can I ask you a favor, Lucia? It’s kind of a big one. And you have to promise me it’ll stay between us. This can’t go out to She’Yin, to the Spire, or anywhere else. If you can promise that, I trust your word.”

The change in language and the unexpected vulnerability of the girl brought upon Lucia’s face the first look of surprise Sy had yet seen. After a moment to recompose herself, she answered. “I’m honored by your trust, Syiandra. Whatever you say next, nor anything pertaining to it, will leave this room. I swear it.”

Sy nodded, but hesitated, chuckled nervously and shivered a little. “Fuck me, couldn’ta waited ‘til I had my clothes on again, huh? You oughta heat yo’ place a bit better, Lu.”

“Please use my full name and stop stalling if you want a warm shower,” Lucia said, crossing her arms. “Now come on. What’s on your mind?”

Sy gave a shuddering sigh, took a deep breath, and spoke. “I had a friend back in the slums. Helped me get Heimdall implanted. He can be… difficult… but heck, so can I, an’ I owe him big time. An’ he don’ know I ain’ dead.”

Lucia nodded. “You’re referring to the Logos attack.”

“Bingo. All he knows is, we had a fight, and a short while after my condo got attacked by a bunch of fuckin’ Logos goons, I’m thin fuckin’ air and all that’s left is a lotta blood an’ broken glass and spent bullets.”

“So why did you not have the Spire notify him?”

Sy rubbed the back of her head and pulled a face. “His hobbies are… not exactly ‘bove board, an’ he’s good at coverin’ his tracks and keepin’ himself from gettin’ found. Would be a class 1 betrayal to hand OSEC his address. An’ I can’t go out and just connect to the Grid myself ‘cause I got Logos targetin’ me.”

Lucia nodded again. “I can see where this is going.”

“Would you? Y’know all about what happened now. You can jus’ tell him. I can give you info on where you can find him an’ how to set up a meeting.” Sy tried to keep the plea from her voice but couldn’t keep it from her eyes. “He prob’ly never gonna want t’see me again with some o’the stupid-ass shit I pulled… Shit, he’ll be fuckin’ furious I poked the Spire in the firs’ place. But I don’ want him t’think I’m dead. I owe him too much fo’ that.”

There was silence for a moment, which seemed to draw out. Sy tried to make eye contact with Lucia, but the woman was stoically staring off into space. Just as Sy was about to say something, Lucia cut her off. “Alright. I’ll help you. We’ll discuss specifics later. You need to shower.”

But instead of showering, Sy leapt over to her and hugged her tight. “Thank you!” she said, her chin digging into Lucia’s shoulder. “Thank you so much!”

It took Lucia completely by surprise. She stiffened for a moment, unsure of how to respond. She was vaguely aware this was the first actual hug she’d received in perhaps a decade. It was clear this had been weighing on Sy's mind for a long time. Finally, she put her hands in the small of Sy’s back and briefly returned the hug before they both relinquished.

“You are welcome,” Lucia said. “Now go shower. It is…" She wrinkled her nose. "...necessary.”

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